Thursday, February 09, 2006

Sex without borders: why the French deserve their reputation

Happy Valentines to all! Let me share with you my review of a book on French slang which reveals more about French sexuality than anything else. Read and enjoy!

For long, I’ve been wondering how the French got their reputation for sexual sophistication. The results of Durex’s 2005 Global Sex Survey say the French get laid 120 times a year, making them the sixth most "amorous" country on earth, next only to Greece, Croatia, Serbia & Montenegro, Bulgaria, and the Czech Republic. In the previous three surveys, the French were always on top. But isn’t it that people of all cultures either embellish or downgrade their sexual records?

After reading Henry Strutz’s Dictionary of French Slang and Colloquial Expressions (New York: Barron’s Educational Series, Inc., 1999), however, I’ve concluded the French indeed deserve that reputation. Would you believe that at least ten percent of the dictionary’s 4,000 entries are related to sex? Only people who are totally obsessed with sex, people who have elevated this most passionate act to high art would be able to evolve those word variations.

In how many words could you describe the sex act? We are familiar with the “shag” and the F-word that the Americans often use. But this is nothing when compared to the French who have evolved at least 75 words and phrases. Baiser, caramboler, dégraisser son panais, enfiler—they are all mean the same: fuck!. Sometimes, they do it foursome (partie carrée). When people have sex out of love, we call it lovemaking and the French say it with great flourish: parte de jambs en l’air. Baiser a la bourgeose is doing it in the “male superior position” but when you say baiser a la papa, it means having sex in a very calm, relaxed manner. I haven't found a phrase for quickie though.

Perdre sa fleur means losing one’s cherry, patiner le chanois (to fellate) and pelotage means petting. And this one is only for those who pleasure from pain: rayer le casque or to bite while fellating. Apparently, they are indeed careful about getting the clap or HIV for they have almost half a dozen words for condom, for instance marguerite, passeport, petit chapeu, préso, schaphandre, and capote anglaise are among the few.

In France, it seems like prostitution has evolved into a highly specialized profession that would make British economist David Ricardo who conceived the Theory of Comparative Advantage blush.

There are very expensive prostitutes (caravelle), very cheap ones (merchande d’amour), prostitutes who turn tricks quickly (cocotte minute), transsexual prostitutes (bresilienne-rasoir), prostitutes who make big money (gagneuse), occasional practitioners (étoile filante) and full-time prostitutes (fille d’amour). There are those who engage in the business for the sheer pleasure of sex than money (montgolière). Some are phony prostitutes who take money but do not render the services (truqueur). Others are very professional and generous, giving extra services without charging extra (amoureuse). Some, however, are just plain incompetent, unprofessional, and unreliable (béguineuse).

There are old practitioners who try to pass off as a teeny bopper (lolita), while other prostitute try to pass off as a housewife (ménagerie). Some are just plain peau de chien (old whore!).

Location, location, location—business gurus say these factors are very important for entrepreneurial success. This principle very much applies to the practice of the oldest profession in France. Some prostitutes solicit business from her windows (fenetriere), or from trains (wagonieré), and near or under the bridge (pontoniére) while others are car-based specializing in oral sex (incendiare, amazone).

In his book On Marriage and Morals (New York: Bantam Books, 1929), British philosopher Bertrand Russell theorized that society—nay the men who dominates society—created prostitution as an institution parallel to the family as a way of safeguarding the virtues of their wives and daughters.

Russell explained: “The need for prostitution arises from the fact that many men are either unmarried or away from their wives on journeys, that such men are not content to remain continent, and that in a conventionally virtuous community they do not find respectable women available. Society therefore sets aside women for the satisfaction of those masculine needs which it is ashamed to acknowledge yet afraid to leave wholly unsatisfied."

It seems like Russell is now passé because some married French ladies do moonlight as courtesans. The slang term passe bourgeoise means “paid sex with a married woman.”

But make no mistake about it. The French are generally sweet and loyal to their spouses. The wife is légiteme and the steady girlfriend is regulière.

Despite the availability of professional sex services, it seems that many French people sometimes go solo. Words like Agacer le sous-prefet, palucher, pignoler, and polir le chinois means to jerk off. But if partners do it mutually, they call it vice-versailles. But hey, don’t you know that the French have special slang terms for jerking off for each gender? Yes, it’s branleur to mean masturbator and its feminine form is branleuse (masturbatrix).

For girls out there who are dating a French guy, don’t assume he is talking about your favorite car safety accessory when he asks about your airbags. Please do ask him if he means pare-chocs or roberts or roploplos or bloblos. If he says oui!, then you know he’s obsessed about your boobs and not your car accessory.

And for you guys, don’t panic when your French lover screams balayette infernalle! (very large penis). That’s a rare compliment a Filipino Casanova could get from a French lady.

1 comment:

Air One said...

well, i'm french and have just read what you thought, and you're quite wrong! the words you used about french expressions are not used at all, maybe centuries ago, but not anymore! and the french reputation isn't true!
you wrote we had about 80 words to talk about sex, but the french has a lot of word, a lot of vocabulary for any situation! that's why this is a language really harsh to learn!